When your current ability falls short

“Oh crap!” These were the words that spun through my head as I flipped over my skis, landing upside down, smacking my head. It hurt.

We had 1.5 meters (5 feet) of snow in a week. This is highly unusual, and in 20 years of skiing in the Australian Alps, I have not seen the like!

I also had more falls this week than I have had in the last five years. It was a combination of heavy snowfall, poor visibility, and funky, sticky snow.

I hadn’t skied this kind of snow before and I felt like a learner all over again.

New conditions need new ability.

This is what many leaders are experiencing right now: unfamiliar, new terrain.

We haven’t seen this kind of world before: rate and pace of change, the coming robot job apocalypse, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, global geopolitical instability, food and water security, rise of renewables, global connectivity.

The very fabric of our lives is being digitally woven. We can only just squint at the possibilities, and the repercussions.

How do we lead in such a world?

We don’t know yet. We’ve got to explore and test and keep looking and feeling our way through.

It’s unnerving, the not knowing, the lack of visibility.

Many leaders struggle with this kind of ambiguity. What we often want is a breakthrough. A magical moment where suddenly it all comes together.

Like skiing, the reality is far more prosaic: a face full of snow, frustration, and a few tantrums.

Breakthroughs in leadership and life are rarely of the hyped-up, fist-pumping variety. Real growth takes persistent effort, in spite of what feels like lack of progress. We need to keep testing the edges of our ability. Little experimentations, trial and error. Lots of error.

It takes courage to keep trying, because the risks are real: we can get hurt. We can fail. We come right up against our limitations, feeling them press down on us like suffocating barriers.

Boundless Leadership is where we keep pushing through until those barriers dissolve.

We just need to keep doing what we can with what we’ve got until we get better.

What limitations are you finding in your leadership? What new realities are you experiencing? What edges of your leadership are you testing?


p.s. We’ll be exploring leadership beyond borders at the Leadership Retreat in Tasmania Nov 2-5. I would love to take you to the edge and see what is possible. Details here